Saturday, July 31, 2010

Political Digest July 31, 2010

I post articles because I think they are of interest. Doing so doesn’t mean that I necessarily agree (or disagree) with every—or any—opinion in the posted article.

I’m working the weekend, so will leave this, but probably no post on Sunday. Enjoy your day off—not to worry, the world will still be a mess when next I give you details!

Excellent Analysis—Worth Reading
Neither Roosevelt nor Reagan
Excerpt: When he signed the health care reform bill earlier this year, Barack Obama gave progressives the prize they had aimed at for seven-plus decades, an event they compared to the passage of civil rights and of Social Security. At the same time, he destroyed the best chance the Democrats had for enduring center-left governance since the mid 20th-century, shattered the coalition that brought him to power, and dealt his party and faction a political setback from which they may not recover for years. Only a year ago, to hear the press tell it, Obama was that rare bird, a transformational figure, the new FDR or the left’s Ronald Reagan. He was no mere presider—like the Bushes or Clinton—but a deliverer of major-league change. The alignments and mores of the past 30 years had been shattered; all that remained was to pick up the pieces and fashion them into a whole new mosaic that would run things for decades. Few doubted that this would be done. Obama’s chance for his new coalition came with the crash of September 2008, which dumped a windfall of independents, swing-voters, and softer Republicans into his and the Democrats’ laps. While Republicans brawled for two weeks over the TARP financial bailout, and destroyed any sense they were fit to hold power, Obama stayed calm, projecting an unflappability that many mistook for assurance and competence. The economic crisis produced a political bonanza—the biggest presidential win for his party since its historic blowout in 1964 and a flood of congressional Democrats. The victory was wide, deep, and truly seemed national: Obama won more white males than Al Gore or John Kerry, he won back many straying conservative Democrats, he won independents by a 52-44 percent margin, and he won the “investor class” (people with incomes of $75,000 or over, and whose home values and stock holdings had been very hard hit) in the suburbs of cities in swing states, who tipped the red states of Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina into his column. For Obama, this windfall was an opportunity, but also a challenge, whose nature he never quite grasped. ... Aligning the base with the swing voters would have brought realignment. This never was tried. (Good pragmatic centrist editorial. Might be better titled as "How Obama Saved the Republican Party." Ron P.)

Important: Sun Could Set Suddenly on Superpower as Debt Bites
Excerpt: We have been raised to think of the historical process as an essentially cyclical one. We naturally tend to assume that in our own time, too, history will move cyclically, and slowly. Yet what if history is not cyclical and slow-moving but arhythmic, at times almost stationary, but also capable of accelerating suddenly, like a sports car? What if collapse does not arrive over a number of centuries but comes suddenly, like a thief in the night? Great powers and empires are complex systems, which means their construction more resembles a termite hill than an Egyptian pyramid. They operate somewhere between order and disorder, on "the edge of chaos", in the phrase of the computer scientist Christopher Langton. Such systems can appear to operate quite stably for some time; they seem to be in equilibrium but are, in fact, constantly adapting. But there comes a moment when complex systems "go critical". A very small trigger can set off a phase transition from a benign equilibrium to a crisis. Complex systems share certain characteristics. A small input to such a system can produce huge, often unanticipated changes, what scientists call the amplifier effect. Empires exhibit many of the characteristics of other complex adaptive systems, including the tendency to move from stability to instability quite suddenly. But this fact is rarely recognised because of our addiction to cyclical theories of history. The Bourbon monarchy in France passed from triumph to terror with astonishing rapidity. The sun set on the British Empire almost as suddenly. The Suez crisis in 1956 proved that Britain could not act in defiance of the US in the Middle East, setting the seal on the end of empire. What are the implications for the US today? The most obvious point is that imperial falls are associated with fiscal crises: sharp imbalances between revenues and expenditures, and the mounting cost of servicing a mountain of public debt. Think of Spain in the 17th century: already by 1543 nearly two-thirds of ordinary revenue was going on interest on the juros, the loans by which the Habsburg monarchy financed itself. Or think of France in the 18th century: between 1751 and 1788, the eve of Revolution, interest and amortisation payments rose from just over a quarter of tax revenue to 62 per cent. Finally, consider Britain in the 20th century. Its real problems came after 1945, when a substantial proportion of its now immense debt burden was in foreign hands. Of the pound stg. 21 billion national debt at the end of the war, about pound stg. 3.4bn was owed to foreign creditors, equivalent to about a third of gross domestic product…. The CBO projects net interest payments rising from 9 per cent of revenue to 20 per cent in 2020, 36 per cent in 2030, 58 per cent in 2040 and 85 per cent in 2050. As Larry Kotlikoff recently pointed out in the Financial Times, by any meaningful measure, the fiscal position of the US is at present worse than that of Greece.

Worth Reading and Sharing
Who Doesn't Pay Taxes and Why
Excerpt: For the 2009 tax year, an estimated 47% of U.S. households did not pay any federal income tax. The percentage was a bit higher than normal due to the lousy economy and some allegedly temporary tax breaks that may not be renewed. The long-term percentage of non-taxpaying households is apparently around 40%. This is according to the Tax Policy Center, a Washington research outfit. Since we all benefit from federally supplied advantages like national defense, the interstate highway system and public education funding, I believe everyone who earns a halfway decent income should pay at least some federal income tax. Freeloading should be against the rules except for those who are truly poor. How did we get to the point where almost half of our citizenry is excused from paying any federal income tax despite being allowed to vote just like the other half? Keep reading for the answers.

The Enablers of Charlie Rangel
She should have promised to “slap the swamp lightly on the wrist.” Excerpt: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is the world's worst cleaning lady. How has she fulfilled her vaunted promise to "drain the swamp" and preside over the "most ethical Congress in history"? By shrugging her shoulders, downplaying the gravity of myriad ethics charges against corruptocrat Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel and waiting for the "political chips" to "fall where they may." Imagine a custodial service that fixed toilet clogs by letting the overflowing waste and polluted waters "fall where they may." At a press conference to preempt the bipartisan House ethics panel's announcement of 13 ethics and federal regulation charges against Rangel on Thursday afternoon, Pelosi claimed to take "great pride" in her swamp-draining record. Unblinkingly, she cited the House trial against Rangel as proof that the "process" is working. But that beleaguered panel has been pathetically understaffed, has dragged its feet for two years on the Rangel case and has administered more halfhearted wrist-slaps than all the pushover parents on a season of "Nanny 911."

As Ohio Goes . . .
Excerpt: In Lucas County, these abstract numbers come to life. Obama beat John McCain here 65-34. But the May 2010 primaries demonstrated a shift in Democratic fortunes. Ohio voters who want to vote in party primaries have to declare an affiliation. (Voters also have the option of choosing an “issues only” ballot. Those who do so do not have to pick a party.) On primary day this spring, May 4, Republicans had a 10-to-1 advantage in crossovers. Some 392 voters switched their registration from Republican to Democrat, but 3,743 switched their registration from Democrat to Republican. This, despite the fact that the only competitive primary in Ohio this spring was for the Democratic nomination for Senate. (Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher defeated Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner by 10 points and will face former Republican representative Rob Portman this fall.) Republicans also had a strong advantage in voters who switched from “issues only” ballots in 2008 to a party ballot in 2010. Some 251 “issues only” voters chose Democratic ballots this year and 699 opted to align with Republicans—again, in a county that went for Obama almost 2-1. ... It’s not just Lucas County. In Cuyahoga County, which surrounds Cleveland, 12,756 voters switched from Democrat to Republican and just 1,796 went from Republican to Democrat. In Franklin County (Columbus), Republicans added 7,622 from Democrats and lost just 917. In Hamilton County (Cincinnati), 5,713 switched from Democrat to Republican and just 411 from Republican to Democrat. Kevin DeWine, chairman of the Ohio Republican party, believes that Republicans have picked up 100,000 crossover voters statewide this year, with 1.8 million primary votes cast. Contrast that to 2008, when Democrats picked up 96,000 crossovers with 3.6 million votes cast.

Tim Scott Rises in South Carolina
Excerpt: Tim Scott is the most heralded Republican House candidate this year, and for good reason. He’s likeable, experienced in politics at the local and state level, a self-described “bleeding heart conservative” of the Jack Kemp school, and the champion of an economic program he describes as “under the umbrella of fiscal sanity.” Scott, by the way, is an African-American from South Carolina. Scott, 44, is a strong favorite to win the House seat being vacated by Republican Rep. Henry Brown, who is retiring. He defeated Paul Thurmond, son of Strom, in a runoff last month for the Republican nomination. Now, absent polling evidence, he figures he’s ahead by a dozen to 15 percentage points over his Democratic opponent Ben Frasier, an African American who’s run for office 19 times but never won.

Ethics panel brings 13 counts against embattled Rep. Rangel
Excerpt: The House ethics committee announced 13 charges Thursday against Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), who is accused of breaking House rules as well as federal statutes. Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas), the chairman of an investigating committee, read the charges against Rangel as the ethics committee began an organization meeting setting up a public trial for Rangel.

House ethics panel, Rep. Rangel spent 2 years going toe-to-toe
Well. Earlier reports of a deal had me convinced the fix was in, but maybe not. This could clear the way for the son of the former corrupt Congressman Powell to take the seat. Excerpt: Documents released Thursday evening show that Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and an ethics panel investigating him were constantly at odds over the last two years. The contentious relationship between the 20-term lawmaker and the ethics committee that concluded Rangel had violated House rules sheds new light on why a settlement wasn’t reached before Thursday’s public hearing. It is clear from the documents that there was an adversarial relationship between the former Ways and Means Committee chairman and the ethics panel. The investigative subcommittee, led by Reps. Gene Green (D-Texas) and Jo Bonner (R-Ala.), claimed that Rangel made misleading statements to the press about the investigation and had to subpoena the New York Democrat to secure certain information. Rangel asserted the ethics panel investigating him violated his Constitutional rights, but committee leaders strongly denied that charge. They also said the reason the probe took two years to complete was because Rangel did not meet deadlines. The committee wrote, “[Rangel’s] failure to abide by the deadlines set by the Investigative Subcommittee was troubling.”

Ethics subcommittee recommends reprimand for Rangel
Then again….Excerpt: The ethics panel investigating Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) is recommending that he be reprimanded for the conduct that resulted in 13 charges against the veteran lawmaker. Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas), chairman of the ethics investigative subcommittee that announced the charges, told reporters Friday that his panel concluded Rangel should be reprimanded. "The recommendation that we had was that he be reprimanded," Green said. Such a punishment might be seen as a slap on the wrist to some. The subpanel could have recommended that Rangel be censured, or that he be expelled from the House. There was no recommendation for punishment listed in the lengthy report issued by Green's panel on Thursday.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky: Charles Rangel is "my leader"
My Congresswoman. Makes a guy proud.

Obama calls on Congress to help unemployed….person convicted of prescription drug fraud?
Too funny. (After the ad.)

Economic growth slows to 2.4 percent pace in second quarter
Business are afraid to hire or expand, not knowing how Obama, Pelosi and Reid will hit them next. Excerpt: The pace of economic growth slowed this spring, according to new government data, as Americans remained reluctant to consume and imports soared. The gross domestic product rose at a 2.4 percent annual rate in the April-through-June quarter, the Commerce Department said Friday, down from a revised 3.7 percent rate in the first quarter. The downshift in second-quarter growth shows an economic recovery that, one year in, seems to be settling into a middling pace. The 2.4 percent rate, while roughly in line with analysts' expectations, is slightly below the level that the nation is capable of growing in the longer run, meaning it is not fast enough to drive down the jobless rate.

Who Decides on Health-Care Value
Excerpt: What would you think if bureaucrats confiscated your iPhone because they decided it didn't provide enough value? State regulators may help the federal government do just that to the health-care benefits of millions of Americans. The most important element in implementing ObamaCare will be the requirement for health insurers to meet what is called a medical loss ratio. This requires health-insurance plans to split the dollars they receive from insurance premiums into two buckets. Depending on the type of insurance coverage, 80% to 85% of premiums must be spent on either medical services or "activities that improve health care quality." This bucket includes everything from doctor visits, hospital stays and surgery to prescription drugs and medical equipment. It also includes programs to help patients cope with chronic diseases and reminders to take prescribed medications. The remaining 15% to 20% of premiums falls into a smaller bucket of "administrative" expenses like overhead, marketing, profits, compensation and agent commissions. Regulators will soon decide which specific activities fall into which bucket. Forcing a wide range of services and benefits into the smaller administrative bucket puts them in direct competition with other critical aspects of a health insurer's business, as health plans will be compelled to cut back on those activities labeled "administrative" to meet new federal requirements. Plans will be forced to choose between priorities that benefit patients—such as preventing health-care fraud and reducing unnecessary services—and other priorities like creating new technological innovations or upgrading equipment. Many see this debate as an underhanded way for the federal government to cap insurers' profits and control executive compensation. But this is much more than a technical fight between bureaucrats and health plans. The implications for patients are enormous.

Americans Cut Back on Visits to Doctor
Excerpt: Insured Americans are using fewer medical services, raising questions about whether patients are consuming less health care as they pick up a greater share of the costs. The drop in usage is showing up as health-care companies report financial results. Insurers, lab-testing companies, hospitals and doctor-billing concerns say that patient visits, drug prescriptions and procedures were down in the second quarter from year-ago levels. "People just aren't using health-care like they have," said Wayne DeVeydt, WellPoint Inc.'s chief financial officer, in an interview Wednesday. "Utilization is lower than we expected, and it's unusual." Others say that consumers are beginning to forgo elective procedures like knee replacements. "We have a very weak economy and it's just a different environment for the elective parts of health care," said Paul Ginsburg, a health economist who runs the Center for Studying Health System Change and has been analyzing health-company earnings. But "this could go beyond the recession. Being a less aggressive consumer of health care is here to stay."

False Claims on Obamacare Savings
Excerpt: The Obama administration continues to insist the new health care law will reduce the federal budget deficit by $100 billion over ten years and ten times that amount in the second decade of implementation. They cite the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) cost estimate to back their claims. CBO says the health legislation as written would reduce the federal budget deficit by $124 billion over ten years. But that’s not the whole story about Obamacare’s budgetary implications—not by a long shot. For starters, CBO is not the only game in town. In the executive branch, the chief actuary of Medicare is supposed to provide the official health-care cost projections for the administration. His cost estimate for the new health law differs in important ways from the one provided by CBO and calls into question every major contention the administration has advanced about the bill. The president says the legislation will slow the increase in costs; the actuary says it won’t. The president says people will get to keep their job-based plans if they want to; the actuary says 14 million people will lose their employer coverage, many of whom would certainly rather keep it than switch to an untested program. The president says the new law will improve the budget outlook; don’t bet on it, says the chief actuary,. In addition, it’s not the chief actuary’s assignment to provide estimates of non-Medicare-related tax provisions, so his cost projections for Obamacare do not capture all the needed budget data to estimate the full impact on the budget deficit. Using the Joint Tax Committee’s estimates for the tax provisions missing from the chief actuary’s report, we find $50 billion of deficit reduction alleged in the CBO report is wiped out. And that’s before the other gimmicks, double counting, and hidden costs are exposed and removed from the accounting, too.

Europe Slashes Low-Carbon Energy Subsidies as Budgets Shrink
Excerpt: What appears to be a bonfire of low-carbon energy subsidies has been lit in Europe as cash-strapped countries grapple with their empty coffers and start to cut back on what many see as over-generous support for industries from wind to solar that has created a green energy bubble. Spain, Germany, France, Italy and the Czech Republic have all announced subsidy cuts, and there are fears that the United Kingdom, making budget cuts across the board as it desperately seeks to reduce a deficit of over 160 billion pounds, will be tempted to go even further. The United Kingdom's independent Committee on Climate Change called earlier this week for the government to safeguard the £550 million a year it spends supporting clean energy, which it said was a paltry amount that needed, if anything, to be increased when economic circumstances allow. Yet cuts have already been announced. (Breaking News: To offset these cuts, Al Gore announced he is bull dozing his energy hog mansion and moving into a 1,300 SF condo similar to mine, giving up flying around the world in private jets, and will drive a 4 cyl vehicle like I do. “I want to be as Green as Bob,” Gore told stunned reporters.)

Mental health experts ask: Will anyone be normal?
Excerpt: An updated edition of a mental health bible for doctors may include diagnoses for "disorders" such as toddler tantrums and binge eating, experts say, and could mean that soon no-one will be classed as normal. Leading mental health experts gave a briefing on Tuesday to warn that a new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is being revised now for publication in 2013, could devalue the seriousness of mental illness and label almost everyone as having some kind of disorder. Citing examples of new additions like "mild anxiety depression," "psychosis risk syndrome," and "temper dysregulation disorder," they said many people previously seen as perfectly healthy could in future be told they are ill. "It's leaking into normality. It is shrinking the pool of what is normal to a puddle," said Til Wykes of the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College London. The DSM is published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and contains descriptions, symptoms, and other criteria for diagnosing mental disorders. It is seen as the global diagnostic bible for the field of mental health medicine.

Do Democrats need to choose between George W. Bush and the Tea Party?
Can’t they work Satan and bin Laden in too? Excerpt: Democrats have made little secret in recent days that much of their 2010 strategy revolves around casting their Republican opponents as throwbacks to the unpopular administration of George W. Bush.
But when Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine stepped in front of reporters at a press conference Wednesday, his goal was to attach the GOP to a decidedly post-Bush movement: the Tea Party. Can the two strategies co-exist? Can Republicans be tied to the policies of Bush when the party is, in the words of Democrats, being "taken over" by a new movement altogether in the form of the Tea Party? In a blog post this morning, Nate Silver makes the case that while the Tea Party might burden the GOP with candidates who may be too conservative for their states in some races (like the Senate races in Kentucky and Nevada), on the whole it has helped them move forward. "In the macro view, the Tea Party has been a huge asset to the Republicans in the way that it facilitated a 'rebranding' of conservative ideas," Silver wrote. After the press conference Wednesday, Kaine disagreed, saying the Tea Party and Bush can effectively be tied together.

Departing lawmakers clutch cash
Excerpt: Democratic leaders are pushing departing lawmakers to turn over their war chests to help the party retain control of Congress, but in some cases are getting a stiff-arm. Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), who is retiring at the end of the year, reported earlier this month having an eye-popping $10.8 million on hand. But he has given only $15,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) to keep his seat in Democratic hands, according to his fundraising reports. Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), who lost his primary race in March, still had $2.7 million as of June 30, a report showed. He also has given just $15,000 to the party’s Senate fundraising committee. Another retiring Democrat, Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.), likewise had donated $15,000 to the party committee through the end of June, despite having nearly $1 million left in his campaign account. DSCC Chairman Robert Menendez (N.J.) said he has asked all colleagues who aren’t facing reelection this year to give generously.

SEC charges billionaire Texas brothers who donate to GOP with fraud
Excerpt: Sam and Charles Wyly, billionaire Texas brothers who gained prominence spending millions of dollars on conservative political causes, committed fraud by using secret overseas accounts to generate more than $550 million in profit through illegal stock trades, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Thursday. The Wylys, who have been generous contributors to the Republican Party and GOP candidates, have spent the past several years facing questions, including from a Senate investigative committee, about whether they hid millions of dollars in tax shelters abroad.

Islam & Shari’a Law Video Clip

What to do if your doctor quits and leaves medicine
Excerpt: It would be hard to find a doctor more symbolic of the best of medicine than Marcus Conant – a man willing to devote his life to caring for people who, at the time, no one wanted to care for, a person who is a powerful advocate for not only his patients, but for all those affected by a devastating and stigmatizing disease, and a practitioner willing to devote himself to the tremendous amount of life-long-learning needed to not only transition into a lower paying field (from dermatology to primary care), but to stay up on developments as the stakes rose as treatment became vastly complex and life-changing. But Marcus Conant is also, sadly, not an isolated case. More and more doctors have fled medicine. And more have fled California, in particular. The numbers are dwindling both due to dissatisfaction and justified retirement. Primary care practitioners – family practice docs, primary care docs, and internal medicine docs – are more and more only represented by an older generation of physicians who entered the field before the twin pressure of gutted pay and mega-hassles meant fewer and fewer sane people would choose it as a career. So if you are one of the many whose doctor has given you the sad news that he/she is leaving the practice of medicine, what should you do? 1. Don’t delay – the number of people in the Bay Area who are taking new patients into primary care is shockingly small. When you add to that the restrictions that your insurance (if you’re lucky enough to have it) is likely to impose, plus the wait time for an appointment, you need to start working the phones. 9the follow up comments are also interesting.)

More women becoming virgins again with hymen replacement operations on the NHS
Bet ObamaCare covers this with your tax dollars. Excerpt: Increasing numbers of women are having taxpayer-funded ‘virginity repair’ operations before marriage. There were 116 hymen replacement operations carried out on the NHS between 2005 and 2009. The total for 2009 was 30, up 25 per cent from 24 in 2005. The health service figures, which do not include data on the religion or marital status of the individuals, seem to echo a trend reported by private clinics, which are seeing a huge surge in demand for the procedure from Muslim women paying up to £4,000. One Harley Street clinic said that demand for its half-hour procedure had tripled in recent months. Doctors say patients are under pressure from future husbands or relatives who insist that they should be virgins on their wedding night.

The Pentagon's WikiLeaks Breakthrough
Excerpt: The former California computer hacker who first raised the alarm weeks ago about a massive leak of classified documents to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks said he provided the Pentagon this week with technical information that almost certainly proves that the leaker was 22-year-old Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning. And he said he hopes he helped the Pentagon figure out what secrets WikiLeaks will reveal next. Adrian Lamo, the former hacker, told The Daily Beast in an interview that he began analyzing the huge library of classified information about the war in Afghanistan immediately after its release by WikiLeaks on Sunday. On Monday, he said, he alerted Pentagon criminal investigators to technical markings on the documents that would allow them to identify exactly which Defense Department computer databases had been used to store the information.

British Academics Put Global Warming Into A New Political Perspective
Excerpt: 'The Profits of Doom', in the 22 July 2010 issue of the influential British news weekly, the Times Higher Education, moves the debate on man-made climate change on from increasingly sterile scientific disputes this week, and places it firmly in the political arena. The special six-page feature article argues that Climate change is serious business in more ways than one. Somehow capitalist "Bootleggers" have co-opted the environmental "Baptists" to fulfil their raison d'ĂȘtre - making money. Thanks to the "greenwash", the solutions could be worse than the problems. In the article, the British writer and philosopher, Martin Cohen, contrasts the high moral claims of those who warn of the threats to the planet and 'future generations' with the practical reality that the policies advantage certain Western agendas, notably the dismantling of their heavily subsidised (and hence very expensive) coal industries and the promotion of nuclear power. Unprecedented amounts of money have been made available to researchers to come up with 'evidence' to back a pre-existing and highly partisan political agenda.

The Obama Gang Can't Shoot Straight
Excerpt: Let’s NOT have a conversation about race. The calls for Obama to now make the Shirley Sherrod debacle a teachable moment fills me with panic that the president will retreat to the Oval Office and craft a soaring piece of oratory, instead of getting on with the humdrum business of firing the stumbling, bumbling members of his own team who, as the saying goes, can’t find their ass with either hand. ... But Obama can’t keep doing catch-up outrage two media cycles after the fact. On the campaign trail, he was the chief executive of a laser-guided, on-message apparatus, the candidate who seemed to lead from a head that was always the most level of the people round him. Instead, the president sounded as out of it as his old adversary John McCain when Obama said on Good Morning America that “we now live in this media culture where something goes up on YouTube or a blog and everybody scrambles.” Yeah, right. There is something loose and jittery about the atmosphere round Obama at the moment of which Vilsack's clumsy over-reaction gives us a whiff. (Tina Brown of leftwing Daily Beast seems out of patience with The One. She doesn't usually rave unless it's about evil conservatives. The dam is cracking and no little Dutch boy is in sight. Ron P.)

North Korean football team shamed in six-hour public inquiry over World Cup
Excerpt: The entire squad was forced onto a stage at the People's Palace of Culture and subjected to criticism from Pak Myong-chol, the sports minister, as 400 government officials, students and journalists watched. The players were subjected to a "grand debate" on July 2 because they failed in their "ideological struggle" to succeed in South Africa, Radio Free Asia and South Korean media reported. The team's coach, Kim Jong-hun, was reportedly forced to become a builder and has been expelled from the Workers' Party of Korea. The coach was punished for "betraying" Kim Jong-un - one of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il's sons and heir apparent. The country, in its first World Cup since 1966, lost all three group games – including a 7-0 defeat to Portugal. The broadcast of live games had been banned to avoid national embarrassment, but after the spirited 2-1 defeat to Brazil, state television made the Portugal game its first live sports broadcast ever. Following ideological criticism, the players were then allegedly forced to blame the coach for their defeats. (If the ruling North Korea thing doesn't work out, maybe the Cubs would hire him? And, at that, he isn't in the same category of evil as Saddam's sons--they would have simply had the team executed. Ain't sports in dictatorships fun? Ron P.)

Looming threat from illegals: terror
Or, as the administration likes to call them, Undocumented Population Control Experts. Excerpt: Arizonans will be grateful for some extra help from the National Guard, starting Sunday, in protecting the border and fighting drug violence -- especially now that a federal judge has blocked key parts of their recent illegal-immigration law. But there's a more pressing border issue that goes beyond Arizona: the alliance between drug cartels and groups that aim to smuggle terrorists into our country through the Mexican border. Last week's detonation along the Texas-Mexico border of an Improvised Explosive Device similar to those used in Iraq and Afghanistan strongly suggests that Hezbollah is working with the drug cartels -- and that America is unsafe. Law-enforcement officials and intelligence analysts believe that terrorist groups like al Qaeda have been working with such gangs as the ruthless MS-13 to smuggle terrorists into America. Intel briefings and other sources suggest that al Qaeda spends as much as $50,000 to smuggle in a single terrorist, while Hezbollah, funded by Iran, pays as much as $10,000.

Thank you Viet Nam veterans and all veterans
Video of the speech by the Vietnamese immigrant I posted before.

Marine Life Survived 8X Current CO2 Levels
Excerpt: Throughout Earth’s history, there is evidence of large carbon dioxide releases, greenhouse conditions, ocean acidification, and major changes in marine life. About 120 million years ago (mya), during the early part of the Cretaceous period, a series of massive volcanic eruptions pumped huge amounts of carbon dioxide into Earth's atmosphere. During the Aptian Oceanic Anoxic Event, atmospheric CO2 content rose to about twice today's level. Eventually, the oceans absorbed much of that CO2, which significantly increased the water's acidity. The change reduced the amount of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) in the water, making it difficult for creatures such as some kinds of plankton to form shells. But the plankton did not die out. In fact, the geological record indicates that ocean biota can adapt to CO2 concentrations as high as 2000 to 3000 ppm—five to eight times current levels. Proxy evidence indicates that atmospheric CO2 concentrations were higher during long warm intervals in the geologic past, and that these conditions did not prevent the precipitation and accumulation CaCO3 as limestone. The accumulation of alkalinity from rock weathering, brought to the ocean by rivers, kept surface waters supersaturated. (One of the few things virtually every climate expert agrees on: each doubling of CO2 should result in a ONE DEGREE rise in global temperatures. Currently, CO2 has increased--if the warmists are correctly using and interpreting their proxies (tree rings, ice cores, etc.)--less than 50% in the past 250 years of industrialization. Translation = even if the warmists are correct right down the line, there is NO hurry to verifying the problem and finding the best solution. Ron P.)

Boehner's own Karl Rove
Excerpt: To illustrate just how pervasive Barry Jackson’s influence is in Republican politics, look no further than the wild Florida Senate race. Early in 2009, when Marco Rubio was waffling over a challenge to Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, he called Jackson — who is now House Minority Leader John Boehner’s chief of staff — for advice. Jackson encouraged Rubio, saying he could beat Crist in the primary. Rubio went for it, rattling the political landscape in the Sunshine State. Yet Jackson’s name never appeared in any media narrative about the race. Such has been the common thread through Jackson’s career as Boehner’s chief of staff and a top adviser to President George W. Bush — no fingerprints, no credit — but enormous behind-the-scenes influence.

The Zombie Option
Excerpt: A 2,000-page government takeover of the health system was just enacted, but now congressional Democrats want even more government. The "public option" is rising from the grave. When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid delighted the liberal Netroots Nation convention in Las Vegas on Saturday by telling them, "We're going to have a public option. It's a question of when," most people assumed he was talking long-term. But 128 House Democrats have co-sponsored a bill to establish a "robust" government-operated health insurance program. Their selling point is, surrealistically, deficit reduction. One of the bill's boosters, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., ranked by as the farthest left member in Congress, claimed a government option would save money the way Medicare does. Is that the same Medicare that in 1966 was only supposed to cost $3 billion, and that the House Ways and Means Committee once assured the country would only cost $12 billion by 1990? Is it the same program that really ended up costing $600 billion by 2008 — 20% of federal spending? The same entitlement that started spending more than it took in from taxes that same year, according to its trustees? And that will go bust less than a decade from now?

Reports Bolster Suspicion of Iranian Ties to Extremists So much for the “experts” saying the Sunnis and Shi’a would never work together. They will to kill infidels! Excerpt: Cooperation among Iran, al Qaeda and other Sunni extremist groups is more extensive than previously known to the public, according to details buried in the tens of thousands of military intelligence documents released by an independent group Sunday. U.S. officials and Middle East analysts said some of the most explosive information contained in the WikiLeaks documents detail Iran's alleged ties to the Taliban and al Qaeda, and the facilitating role Tehran may have played in providing arms from sources as varied as North Korea and Algeria. The officials have for years received reports of Iran smuggling arms to the Taliban. The WikiLeaks documents, however, appear to give new evidence of direct contacts between Iranian officials and the Taliban's and al Qaeda's senior leadership. It also outlines Iran's alleged role in brokering arms deals between North Korea and Pakistan-based militants, particularly militant leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and al Qaeda. WikiLeaks released a cache of intelligence documents Sunday that detail raw intelligence reports over a five-year period. The information is fragmentary, and its not known how many reports were corroborated by other sources. "Some parts are more believable than others, but this sort of raw stuff could be gold or a dud," said a senior U.S. official working on both Pakistan and Iran. The apparent links are striking because Iran has historically been a foe of the Taliban, who generally view the followers of Shiite Islam—Iran's predominant faith—as heretics.

Muslim cleric: "Hitler was right what he did to the Jews"
Excerpt: Mind you, Hussam Fawzi Jabar is an Islamic cleric. He has devoted his life to studying the Qur'an and Sunnah. And he doesn't seem to have come across anything in that extensive study to make him reconsider his vile and genocidal anti-Semitism. Yet the myth persists that Islamic anti-Semitism is an import from Christianity or Nazism or both, and that Islam in its pure form is tolerant and friendly to Jews.

How the CIA Got It Wrong on Iran’s Nukes
Excerpt: In a stunning departure from a decade of assessments, the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran declared: “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program,” including “nuclear weapon design and weaponization work” and covert uranium enrichment. Even more astonishingly, it attributed this change to “increasing international scrutiny and pressure resulting from exposure of Iran’s previously undeclared nuclear work.” In other words, the threat of sanctions had ended that country’s surreptitious effort to obtain nuclear weapons. This assessment suggested that further action against Iran was unnecessary. Unfortunately, as the Obama administration has now acknowledged, the NIE’s conclusion was dead wrong, costing us precious time in dealing with a serious threat. The question remains, what caused such a disastrous mistake? In 2007, there was still much the same mountain of evidence that led U.S. intelligence to conclude in the 2006 NIE with equally “high confidence” that Iran was secretly engaged in a nuclear weapons program. This evidence included verified reports that Iran had experimented with Polonium 210, a key ingredient in the trigger of early-generation nuclear bombs. And documents recovered from a stolen Iranian laptop described its efforts to fit a warhead in the nose cone of its Shahab 3 missile that would detonate at an altitude of 600 meters, which is too high for anything but a nuclear warhead to be effective. The CIA had learned that Iran had most likely acquired a digital copy of a Chinese nuclear warhead design from the A.Q. Khan network. It also had monitored Iran’s crash program at Natanz to build a nuclear enrichment plant that could house up to 50,000 centrifuges. Taken individually, these secret activities might have a nonnuclear explanation. For example, Iran claimed the purpose of its Polonium 210 experiments was merely to find a power source for an Iranian spacecraft (though Iran had no known space program at the time). Taken together, however, these efforts added up an inescapable conclusion: Iran was going nuclear.

G.M.’s Electric Lemon
Government Motors strikes again. Excerpt: GENERAL MOTORS introduced America to the Chevrolet Volt at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show as a low-slung concept car that would someday be the future of motorized transportation. It would go 40 miles on battery power alone, promised G.M., after which it would create its own electricity with a gas engine. Three and a half years — and one government-assisted bankruptcy later — G.M. is bringing a Volt to market that makes good on those two promises. The problem is, well, everything else. For starters, G.M.’s vision turned into a car that costs $41,000 before relevant tax breaks ... but after billions of dollars of government loans and grants for the Volt’s development and production. And instead of the sleek coupe of 2007, it looks suspiciously similar to a Toyota Prius. It also requires premium gasoline, seats only four people (the battery runs down the center of the car, preventing a rear bench) and has less head and leg room than the $17,000 Chevrolet Cruze, which is more or less the non-electric version of the Volt. In short, the Volt appears to be exactly the kind of green-at-all-costs car that some opponents of the bailout feared the government might order G.M. to build. Unfortunately for this theory, G.M. was already committed to the Volt when it entered bankruptcy. And though President Obama’s task force reported in 2009 that the Volt “will likely be too expensive to be commercially successful in the short term,” it didn’t cancel the project. Nor did the government or G.M. decide to sell the Volt at a loss, which, paradoxically, might have been the best hope for making it profitable. Consider the Prius. Back in 1997, Toyota began selling the high-tech, first-of-its-kind car in Japan for about $17,000, even though each model cost $32,000 to build. By taking a loss on the first several years of Prius production, Toyota was able to hold its price steady, and then sell the gas-sippers in huge numbers when oil prices soared. Today a Prius costs roughly the same in inflation-adjusted dollars as those 1997 models did, and it has become the best-selling Toyota in the United States after the evergreen Camry and Corolla.

"Born in other countries, yet believing you could be happy in this, our laws acknowledge, as they should do, your right to join us in society, conforming, as I doubt not you will do, to our established rules. That these rules shall be as equal as prudential considerations will admit, will certainly be the aim of our legislatures, general and particular." --Thomas Jefferson. The Patriot Post

Details of 100m Facebook users collected and published
Excerpt: Ron Bowes used a piece of code to scan Facebook profiles, collecting data not hidden by the user's privacy settings. The list, which has been shared as a downloadable file, contains the URL of every searchable Facebook user's profile, their name and unique ID. Mr Bowes said he published the data to highlight privacy issues, but Facebook said it was already public information. The file has spread rapidly across the net. On the Pirate Bay, the world's biggest file-sharing website, the list was being distributed and downloaded by more than 1,000 users. One user, going by the name of lusifer69, described the list as "awesome and a little terrifying". In a statement to BBC News, Facebook said that the information in the list was already freely available online. (Got a Facebook account? How about your spouse and children? By the way, that's 100,000,000 accounts. Ron P.)

Obama Worried About Losing Cracker, Honkie Vote
Excellent satire: Excerpt: The Obama administration is reeling after several race-based debacles. Now the poll numbers are suggesting the mishaps are hurting the President. Officials are worried that the administration looks racist. This misrepresentation could mean the they'll lose both the Cracker vote and elements of the Honkie voting block. Obama pollster Reginald Ferrengotti paints a stark picture of what's at stake for the nation's first post-whitey presidency. "We are a full eight percentage points down among drunk, cracker-assed crackers and five percent down among those rich, pussified urban honkies," Ferrengotti said. "I'd tell you what the rednecks are trending, but none of them poor bastards pay their phone bills. What I gotta go out there and count 'em on their porches? No way." Ferrengotti said the administration hopes to pull some of the Honkey vote back by labeling them racists if they call the Obama administration racist. "It's a reverse-reverse discrimination tactic," said Ferrengotti. But they've largely written off the cracker, beauhunk, hymie, hick, wop, and kraut support. "It's hard to believe in this day and age that a cracker would get so sensitive about race," said Ferrengotti.

Obama Orders End to ID Checks at White House
Satire. I recommend this site for political humor. Excerpt: Admitting there’s no way to ask a visitor for identification without treating him like a criminal, President Obama today lifted the requirement that Secret Service, military and police personnel assigned to the White House be required to establish a visitor’s threat status before granting admittance. The move comes just a day after a federal judge, at the president’s request, overturned parts of Arizona’s effort to enforce federal immigration law, including requirements on law enforcers to establish immigration status of alleged perpetrators, and on immigrants to carry documents to verify that status. Mr. Obama said that the process, which critics defend as a way to prevent dangerous people from getting close the president and his staff, is merely another form of discrimination. “I inherited from my predecessor this terrible system” said President Obama. “Just to get into this place you have to provide a valid social security number, drivers license, submit to a background check, have your car searched, empty your pockets, get wanded…it’s dehumanizing.” “In other words,” the president said, “before today, if you wanted to get into the White House, you automatically fit the profile, and federal agents would harass you like a criminal. Today I throw open the doors of the White House to people of all nations, and all creeds. Let freedom ring.”

Friday, July 30, 2010

Political Digest July 30, 2010

I post articles because I think they are of interest. Doing so doesn’t mean that I necessarily agree (or disagree) with every—or any—opinion in the posted article.

Rangel won't confirm report he's reached ethics settlement
Blago won’t testify. Rangel won’t be tried. Cover ups in place. Excerpt: Rep. Charlie Rangel has reportedly reached a deal on ethics charges that will avoid a public trial that could have hurt his party ahead of the fall elections, according to New York City news media. But Rangel told reporters Thursday at the Capitol that he didn’t know if a deal had been reached. Asked if there was a deal, Rangel said: “I don’t know. I’ll tell you one thing, until someone tells me that there is, there isn’t.” WCBS-TV in New York reported Harlem friends of Rangel said a deal had been struck, and details of the deal could be unveiled when the ethics panel meets as scheduled at 1 p.m. The network reported Rangel will admit to wrongdoing as part of the deal. The House ethics panel is meeting ahead of a scheduled organizational session for Rangel’s ethics trial. Rep. Jo Bonner (Ala.), the panel’s ranking Republican, said he didn’t know if there was a deal as he entered the meeting, and declined further comment.

Body of 2nd Missing US Sailor Found in Afghanistan
Excerpt: A second U.S. Navy sailor who went missing in a dangerous part of eastern Afghanistan was found dead and his body recovered, a senior U.S. military official and Afghan officials said Thursday. The family of Petty Officer 3rd Class Jarod Newlove, a 25-year-old from the Seattle area, had been notified of his death, the U.S. military official said on condition of anonymity, because he was not authorized to disclose the information. Newlove and Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin McNeley went missing last Friday in Logar province. NATO recovered the body of McNeley - a 30-year-old father of two from Wheatridge, Colorado - in the area Sunday.

Why Are We Beginning to Hate Congress?
Is the country better off now than in 2006 when the Republicans last controlled Congress? Excerpt: Recent polls show that more than 70 percent of the public holds an unfavorable view of Congress. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wins about a 10 percent approval rating; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has similarly rock-bottom poll numbers. Why this astounding -- and growing -- disdain for our lawmakers? After all, Congress has had plenty of scandals and corruption in the past, such as the House post office and check-kiting messes the Charles Keating payoffs, and the Abscam bribery. But lately, Congress seems not merely corrupt, but -- far more worrisome -- without apparent concern that it has become so unethical. A "culture of corruption" was the slogan of the Democratic Party to win back Congress in 2006. And indeed there was lots of sleaze then among incumbent Republicans.
Reps. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.), Bob Ney (R-Ohio) and Tom DeLay (R-Texas) all left Congress under a cloud. Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) and Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) saw their careers ruined over creepy sex allegations. Convicted felon Jack Abramoff ran a criminal lobbying syndicate by which big money earned special attention from Republican lawmakers. But when reform-minded Democrats took over, the mess got no better, and possibly worse -- suggesting that the problem was not politics, but what Congress itself had become. Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) was convicted on multiple counts, including bribery and racketeering. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), who recently stepped down as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, for over a year has been under investigation for numerous transgressions -- from rent-control violations and tax avoidance to improper lobbying and omissions from financial disclosure forms. The late Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) had seemed destined for an investigation into quid-pro-quo relationships between the money he received from boosters and the earmarks he earned them. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) managed to get a cut-rate home loan from a tottering bank -- and a great deal on a vacation home in Ireland from a seller with connections to someone for whom Dodd lobbied for a presidential pardon.

The Unpresidential President
Excerpt: With the peculiar magic of his presidential campaign now a faded memory, Obama is shoring up support by the cruder method of divisive appeals. Long before the current (already hugely extended) campaign season began, Obama made it a practice to target opposition symbols (“the insurance industry,” “speculators,” “a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street,” the oil companies), call out and assail individual opponents (Rush Limbaugh, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner), and refer disparagingly to the Tea Party movement and Republicans in general (“this crowd”). More than a half-year before the midterm elections, he tried to revive his electoral base of “young people, African Americans, Latinos, and women” by taking a page from Al Gore’s 2000 campaign and embracing the shop-worn slogan, “I won’t stop fighting for you.” An ass-thumping president frantically fighting for the little guy—it’s hard to imagine George Washington or Abraham Lincoln choosing to project an image of this kind. Barack Obama has managed a rare feat in American history: The longer he is president, the less presidential he has become. Obama has reversed the usual process of growth and maturation, appearing today far more like a candidate for the presidency—and a very ordinary one at that—than he did during the latter stages of his campaign.

BP Oil Spill: Clean-Up Crews Can't Find Crude in the Gulf
If I’d had the cash, would have bought gulf front property in west Florida a month ago. Funny how fast things get back to normal. Excerpt: For 86 days, oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico from BP's damaged well, dumping some 200 million gallons of crude into sensitive ecosystems. BP and the federal government have amassed an army to clean the oil up, but there's one problem -- they're having trouble finding it. At its peak last month, the oil slick was the size of Kansas, but it has been rapidly shrinking, now down to the size of New Hampshire. Today, ABC News surveyed a marsh area and found none, and even on a flight out to the rig site Sunday with the Coast Guard, there was no oil to be seen.

Opinion: More Kennedy, Less Obama
Excerpt: If President Barack Obama is going to lead the country to better times, he needs to start leading more like President John F. Kennedy. Nationally, unemployment is near 10 percent and could remain there for the foreseeable future. In June, the U.S. Department of Labor reported 652,000 people stopped looking for work. According to a recent Pew Research Center study, the magnitude of the current recession goes well beyond unemployment numbers. Pew found that 32 percent of adults have been unemployed at some point during the now 30-month recession. In addition to being unemployed at some point, 55 percent report a cut in pay or reduction in hours. To tackle these economic problems, Obama pressed Congress to pass a massive government stimulus package costing $862 billion and pushed forward a budget-busting $1 trillion health care entitlement program. He now seeks additional stimulus spending of $266 billion and the introduction of a new national energy tax, which one outside estimate predicts will kill 5.1 million jobs over the next 40 years and cost the American economy $125.9 billion per year, or $1,042 per household.

Unfunded Liabilities of State and Local Government Employee Retirement Benefit Plans
Excerpt: Due to the use of high discount rates, the liabilities of state and local government pension plans are underestimated, say Courtney A. Collins, an assistant professor of economics at the Stetson School of Business at Mercer University, and Andrew J. Rettenmaier, Executive Associate Director at the Private Enterprise Research Center at Texas A&M University and a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis. For example: Recent reports by the Pew Center on the States and others indicate that assets will cover about 85 percent of the pension benefits owed to participants. But other studies that adopted lower discount rates have found liabilities may actually be 75 percent to 86 percent higher than reported. As a result, taxpayers' role as insurer may be much greater than anticipated. In addition to pension benefits, state and local governments often also provide other retirement benefits, especially postretirement health care benefits. These nonpension postemployment benefits include such things as health insurance, dental and vision insurance, and prescription drug plans. Unlike pension plans, most of these nonpension benefit plans are completely unfunded. That is, assets are not being set aside to fund the obligations, say Collins and Rettenmaier: The Pew Center on the States reports that nonpension benefit unfunded liabilities across all states were about $537 billion in 2008. According to Collins and Rettenmaier, estimates of the reported unfunded liabilities of state and local governments for pensions and other postemployment benefits total $1.03 trillion, but when these unfunded liabilities are recalculated using a more appropriate discount rate, the total unfunded accrued liability is much higher. Collins and Rettenmaier analyzed 153 state and local pension plans, representing more than 85 percent of liabilities for state and local pensions and other benefits, and recalculated their liabilities using a lower discount rate. Their calculations show: Unfunded pension liabilities are approximately $2.5 trillion, compared to the reported amount of $493 billion. Unfunded liabilities for health and other benefits are $558 billion, compared to the reported $537 billion. Thus, total unfunded liabilities for all benefit plans are an estimated $3.1 trillion -- nearly three times higher than the plans report.

A moratorium we need
Excerpt: House Majority Leader John Boehner’s proposal for a one year moratorium on new regulations affecting business has the support of a plurality of voters, according to a new Rasmussen poll. The margin is slim: 38 percent approve of the idea, 34 percent disapprove and 28 percent don’t know. Many more people approve of the idea for regulations affecting small business than those affecting big business. What this suggests is that people know that regulation can make running a business unprofitable, but think that big business can absorb the cost. What they may not appreciate is that big business often lobbies for regulation for this very reason – it erects entry barriers against smaller maverick insurgents in their industry – and then pass on the cost of regulation to the rest of us.

Lift 'reckless' oil drilling ban, Gulf residents plead
Obama the Job Killer. Excerpt: President Barack Obama's "reckless" moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is suffocating small businesses and destroying livelihoods, lawmakers and residents said Tuesday. "The decision to stop energy exploration in the Gulf of Mexico appears to have been made in an uninformed manner that borders recklessness," Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu told the small business committee, which she chairs. "It has increased our risk to the environment, it has increased our national security risk, it has increased the risks to job security. It must be reversed now." A study by Louisiana State University finance professor Joseph Mason estimates the six-month moratorium, which ends in late November, would cost more than 8,000 jobs in Gulf states of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

Emergency room waits drag as patient numbers rise
Obama, the healthcare killer. Illinois is 25, with an average wait time over four hours. Hope I don’t need to go to the ER, because as Obamacare kicks in, this is going to get much worse. Excerpt: Emergency room patients in Kansas had to wait an average of five hours and 43 minutes until they were seen by a physician, according to the most recent annual report from Press Ganey Associates Inc., a consulting firm that offers services and research to health care providers. That’s 21 minutes longer than last year and almost two hours longer than across the state line in Missouri. The wait makes Kansas the second-worst in the nation, ahead of Utah’s average wait time of eight hours and 17 minutes.

White House proposal would ease FBI access to records of Internet activity
Funny, the Left was screaming about Bush intruding into constitutional rights to privacy. Quiet now, though. Excerpt: The Obama administration is seeking to make it easier for the FBI to compel companies to turn over records of an individual's Internet activity without a court order if agents deem the information relevant to a terrorism or intelligence investigation. The administration wants to add just four words -- "electronic communication transactional records" -- to a list of items that the law says the FBI may demand without a judge's approval. Government lawyers say this category of information includes the addresses to which an Internet user sends e-mail; the times and dates e-mail was sent and received; and possibly a user's browser history. It does not include, the lawyers hasten to point out, the "content" of e-mail or other Internet communication. But what officials portray as a technical clarification designed to remedy a legal ambiguity strikes industry lawyers and privacy advocates as an expansion of the power the government wields through so-called national security letters. These missives, which can be issued by an FBI field office on its own authority, require the recipient to provide the requested information and to keep the request secret. They are the mechanism the government would use to obtain the electronic records.

Brother of Marine hero will follow in his path: 'I have big shoes to fill'
Excerpt: His brother, Sgt. Rafael Peralta, is one of the Marine Corps heroes of Iraq -- a leader who smothered a grenade to save his fellow Marines during the 2004 battle for Fallouja. Now Ricardo Peralta, 19, is following in his brother's path as a Marine private first class bound for the 3rd Battalion, 4th Regiment at Twentynine Palms to begin training for deployment to Afghanistan. It's the fulfillment of a promise that Ricardo made at his brother's funeral.

And the problem is what, exactly?
Excerpt: In news from Afghanistan, seems that the Brits identified a high-value target -- in this case a Taleban warlord. Local British Command rounded up a Gurkha patrol, gave them the intel and mentioned that they really needed positive ID once the Gurks caught up with him. Well, catch up they did, with the result that said warlord became intimately acquainted with the Gurkhas "Air In, Blood Out" diplomatic skills. Things got a little too warmish for the Gurkhas to retrieve the body -- positive ID and all that -- so when the patrol returned to base and the CO asked if they were sure they got the bastard ... A Gurkha pulled the warlord's head out of a backpack. *shrug* The end of the tale should read: "The Gurkha patrol was issued one case of gin, and three days leave." Unfortunately, we have discovered that the British Army has deemed this as being "culturally insensitive" and is in the process of disciplining the Gurkha who did the whacking and the carrying.

Gov. Brewer vs Robert Sarver
The owner of the Phoenix Suns basketball team, Robert Sarver, opposes AZ's new immigration laws. Arizona's Governor, Jan Brewer, released the following statement in response to Sarver's criticism of the new law: "What if the owners of the Suns discovered that hordes of people were sneaking into games without paying? What if they had a good idea who the gate-crashers are, but the ushers and security personnel were not allowed to ask these folks to produce their ticket stubs, thus non-paying attendees couldn't be ejected. Furthermore, what if Suns' ownership was expected to provide those who sneaked in with complimentary eats and drink? And what if, on those days when a gate-crasher became ill or injured, the Suns had to provide free medical care and shelter?" -Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer

DOJ Accused of Stalling on MOVE Act for Voters in Military
Excerpt: The Department of Justice is ignoring a new law aimed at protecting the right of American soldiers to vote, according to two former DOJ attorneys who say states are being encouraged to use waivers to bypass the new federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act. The MOVE Act, enacted last October, ensures that servicemen and women serving overseas have ample time to get in their absentee ballots. The result of the DOJ's alleged inaction in enforcing the act, say Eric Eversole and J. Christian Adams — both former litigation attorneys for the DOJ’s Voting Section — could be that thousands of soldiers' ballots will arrive too late to be counted. "It is an absolute shame that the section appears to be spending more time finding ways to avoid the MOVE Act, rather than finding ways to ensure that military voters will have their votes counted," said Eversole, director of the Military Voter Protection Project, a new organization devoted to ensuring military voting rights. "The Voting Section seems to have forgotten that it has an obligation to enforce federal law, not to find and raise arguments for states to avoid these laws." Adams, a conservative blogger ( who gained national attention when he testified against his former employer after it dropped its case against the New Black Panther Party, called the DOJ’s handling of the MOVE Act akin to “keystone cops enforcement.” “I do know that they have adopted positions or attempted to adopt positions to waivers that prove they aren’t interested in aggressively enforcing the law,” Adams told “They shouldn’t be going to meeting with state election officials and telling them they don’t like to litigate cases and telling them that the waiver requirements are ambiguous.” The MOVE act requires states to send absentee ballots to overseas military troops 45 days before an election, but a state can apply for a waiver if it can prove a specific "undue hardship" in enforcing it. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas – who co-sponsored MOVE – wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on July 26 saying he is concerned that the Department of Justice is allowing states to opt out of the new law. (The active military tends heavily to vote GOP, at 80-85%. Not getting all the absentee ballots counted can change an election, for instance, there almost certainly would be a different Senator from MN today if all their ballots got counted last time. So it's in the interests of a certain group to not really help get the military vote counted, which they balance out by counting the votes of convicted felons and dead people. Who, oddly enough, tend to not vote GOP. (Coincidence, of course.) Yep, our current Department of Justice is part of that dramatic change we were promised. It's changed from a nonpartisan function that enforces federal laws evenhandedly to one that has its own agenda. Just great....Del)

Veterans Affairs to Investigate Fallen Soldiers' Death Benefits
And if they die, the families get screwed. Excerpt: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said it is conducting a “full investigation” into a report that life insurance companies are putting veterans’ death benefits in corporate accounts and keeping most of the investment profits instead of paying the survivors. The agency was responding today to a report in Bloomberg Markets magazine on what has become a standard practice for life insurance policies issued by companies including Prudential Financial Inc. and MetLife Inc. Instead of paying a lump sum to survivors when a policyholder dies, insurers keep the money in their own accounts, pay uncompetitive interest rates to survivors and give them misleading guarantees about the safety of the funds. “The possibility that life insurance companies are profiting inappropriately from these service members’ sacrifice is completely unacceptable,” Mike Walcoff, acting undersecretary for the agency’s Veterans Benefit Administration, said in an e-mailed statement. “The VA is conducting a full investigation into the life insurance companies and their procedures in this program.”

Marine Vet Speaks to Tea Party
Guess he’s another racist, huh NAACP? Great tan, though.

Israel’s First Female Arab-Israeli Paratrooper
“Stand up, hook up, shuffle to the door….” Or so those who jumped out of perfectly functioning airplanes used to say—I wasn’t among them. But I believe a lot of troopers might follow this lass out the door without even having chutes on…

John Wayne on Liberty, Freedom, and the Role of Government
He looks better in a Marine uniform than I did….

Leaked War Files Expose Identities of Afghan Informants
Excerpt: Hundreds of Afghan lives have been put at risk by the leaking of 90,000 intelligence documents to WikiLeaks because the files identify informants working with NATO forces. In just two hours of searching the WikiLeaks archive, The Times of London found the names of dozens of Afghans credited with providing detailed intelligence to U.S. forces. Their villages are given for identification and also, in many cases, their fathers' names. U.S. officers recorded detailed logs of the information fed to them by named local informants, particularly tribal elders. (Linked through Fox News. London Times has put the article behind a pay-wall. Those who haven't been there very often may be able to get in; for the rest of us (me), this is it for free. I'm too mad to comment. Ron P.) (Calm down, Count. This has happened a lot through the years. When has a “journalist” ever cared if people died horribly, as long as they got their “scoop”? as a profession, “journalism” now ranks below trial lawyers and used car salesmen, but a bit above hit men and drug dealers. ~Bob)

Mexico Looks For Human Rights Violations
Excerpt: Let me just see if I have this correct. The Mexican government is sending "human rights" officials to the Arizona border to assure after the new law, SB1070 goes into effect today, its citizens that have paid "coyotes" to cross them into the United States illegally, some left in the desert to die with no water, stuffed in everything from trunks of cars to bale's of hay, held for ransom in drop houses, being raped and beaten by their traffickers, are treated humanly by U. S. Officials that transport the illegal immigrants by air conditioned greyhound buses to the Arizona / Mexico border with free food and beverage, medical care and wardrobes provided during incarceration. Please tell me these are not the same Mexican officials that provide maps and routes for the human traffickers to sneak illegal immigrants across the U.S. Borders, or the same Mexican officials that see "no harm no foul" when Mexican drug cartels behead a dozen people, including their own police, elected officials, women and children and leave their heads and body parts thrown in the streets of Mexican border cities, but they want to check on our humanity? I think what they are really doing is checking on our stupidity for even engaging this conversation with them. "Mexico looking for and finding their own human rights violations is like the Democrat's finding and acknowledging Charlie Rangel's ethic violations." "So think about it, if even one of the illegals we return to Mexico has a case of "flatulence" they intend to label us as inhumane." "It is already predetermined." "It’s a plan."

Evidence Links Manning to Leaked Afghan War Logs
Excerpt: Investigators have found concrete evidence linking Pfc. Bradley Manning with the leak of classified Afghanistan war reports, a defense official said. A search of the computers used by Pfc. Manning yielded evidence he had downloaded the Afghanistan war logs, which span from 2004 until 2009, the official said. It’s not clear precisely what that evidence is. The investigation is also looking at who might have helped Pfc. Manning provide the documents to WikiLeaks, a web-based group that earlier this week released 76,000 secret reports on Afghanistan. (“Listen up. Hall, Pittenger, Del Vecchio and the rest of you clowns in first squad fall out and draw weapons for firing squad detail. And for God’s sakes, shoot to kill this time—we don’t want this one thrashing around for a couple off hours like the last one.” “Sir, Aye, Aye, sir!”)

The Year America Dissolved
Excerpt: The first clans organized around local police forces. The conservatives’ war on crime during the late 20th century and the Bush/Obama war on terror during the first decade of the 21st century had resulted in the police becoming militarized and unaccountable. As society broke down, the police became warlords. The state police broke apart, and the officers were subsumed into the local forces of their communities. The newly formed tribes expanded to encompass the relatives and friends of the police. The dollar had collapsed as world reserve currency in 2012 when the worsening economic depression made it clear to Washington’s creditors that the federal budget deficit was too large to be financed except by the printing of money. (A little earlier than I was predicting here:

Anti-SB 1070 rally Che' is the A.N.S.W.E.R 7-28-2010
Useful idiots, Stalin supposedly called folks like this.

Cities Rent Police, Janitors to Save Cash
Avoids political favoritism increasing costs, government unions and all the rest of the usual government inefficiency. Excerpt: Cities say they have little choice. Municipalities across the U.S. will face a projected shortfall of $56 to $86 billion between 2010 and 2012, according to a report from the National League of Cities. "You can do across-the-board cuts for only so long," said Andrew Belknap, Western Regional Vice President for Management Partners, a government consulting group. "It's gone from the tactical cost cutting to get through a recession, to in some cases saying we have to exit that business or service altogether." Maywood, a tiny city southeast of Los Angeles, is taking contracting to the extreme. The city of around 40,000 is letting go of its entire staff and contracting with outsiders to perform all city services. The city is disbanding its police force and handing public safety over to the Los Angeles County Sheriff. Its neighbor, the city of Bell, will take over running Maywood's City Hall. Like many towns, Maywood is battling a budget deficit. But city officials said they were forced into the situation when the city's insurance carrier decided to cancel coverage because of the $21 million in legal expenses and judgments against the city stemming from the conduct of its police department. Without insurance, the city is barred from hiring employees who work directly for the city.

What I Saw At Moba Khan
Excerpt: Echo company got into a gunfight last Aug. 25 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. You'll learn that by reading the report found in WikiLeaks's database of Afghan war documents released on Sunday night. You'll learn that, after a chase, the Marines killed one insurgent. You'll learn that the insurgents supposedly fled and that the troops decided to stay the night in the area in case the militants returned. What you won't learn is that a Marine sniper team sparked the shoot-out with a surprise assault on the insurgents; that every member of that team was nearly killed in the battle; or that the incident would kick off a three-day siege in which the Taliban nearly surrounded the Echo company squad. You also won't learn that, in the midst of this battle, British and Afghan troops waged a more gentle counterinsurgency nearby, as they sat cross-legged under shady patches of farmland and talked with village elders. I know this because I was there with Echo company, reporting for Wired magazine. The vast difference between what actually happened at the Moba Khan compound in Helmand province and what the report says happened there should give caution to those who think they can discover the capital-T truth about the Afghanistan conflict through the Wikileaks war logs. It should also give pause to those officers in military headquarters who rely on these updates. The military has a problem in how it talks to itself. These reports—ultra-compressed and focused solely on the bombs-and-bullets part of the war—are a symptom of that shaky reporting system.

Claim of 'Islamic veil bus ban' thrown out
We have to stop automatically believing when groups manipulate us by playing the victim card. Excerpt: A bus driver accused by two students of banning them because of their Islamic dress has been cleared after CCTV showed he had actually barred them for their abusive behaviour. An investigation by Metroline - which operates the No7 bus - found the driver, who could have faced the sack over the allegation, was justified in not allowing the women on his vehicle. The 22-year-olds, Yasmin and Atoofa, from Slough, told the BBC that they had been refused access to the bus at Russell Square because of their dress. Yasmin was wearing a hijab and her face was uncovered while Atoofa was wearing a niqab, which covers the face. But the Standard has learned that the students, who asked for their full names not to be revealed, were denied entry "due to abusive behaviour towards bus driver and other passengers". On-board CCTV of the incident, on Monday last week, showed the women banging on the front doors and attempting to board the bus when it had come to the end of its run. They then get on through the rear doors and begin arguing with the driver. They get off and wait for the bus to start its journey back to Paddington - but another exchange follows, and the driver refuses to set off unless they disembark.

ATM attacks reveal security holes
Wonderful. Excerpt: A hacker has discovered a way to force ATMs to disgorge their cash by hijacking the computers inside them….Computer hacker Barnaby Jack spent two years tinkering in his Silicon Valley apartment with ATMs he bought online. These were standalone machines, the type seen in front of convenience stores, rather than the ones in bank branches. His goal was to find ways to take control of ATMs by exploiting weaknesses in the computers that run the machines. He showed off his results at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas, an annual gathering devoted to exposing the latest computer-security vulnerabilities. His attacks have wide implications because they affect multiple types of ATMs and exploit weaknesses in software and security measures that are used throughout the industry. His talk was one of the conference’s most widely anticipated, as it had been pulled a year ago over concerns that fixes for the ATMs wouldn’t be in place in time. He used the extra year to craft more dangerous attacks.

Obama support falls among blacks, Hispanics
The 15% of blacks who don’t approve are all, of course, racists! Excerpt: Gallup’s latest weekly compilation of polling data on President Obama’s job approval rating shows him at 85 percent among black Americans, down from a 94 percent approval rating among blacks as recently as March. The 85 percent figure is also Obama’s lowest-ever as president among African-Americans in the Gallup weekly poll. The poll data is from July 19 to 25, meaning Gallup sampled opinion as the Shirley Sherrod matter, and the Obama administration’s handling of it, exploded into controversy. Obama’s approval rating among Hispanics in the latest poll, 52 percent, is also his lowest rating among that group in Gallup’s weekly measurement. He was in the low-to-mid 60’s earlier with Hispanics earlier this year. Obama’s approval rating among whites is 38 percent, mostly unchanged from recent weeks but down a few points from the beginning of 2010. Overall, Obama’s weekly job rating is 45 percent approve, 47 percent disapprove, down from a 51 percent approve, 42 percent disapprove in February. Obama remains above a 50 percent approval rating with several groups. His rating is 59 percent with people 18 to 29 years old; 53 percent with people who hold graduate degrees; 53 percent with people who make less than $24,000 a year; and 52 percent with people who seldom or never attend church. On the political spectrum, his numbers are 79 percent approval among Democrats and 76 percent approval among self-identified liberals.

Secret Democrat memo details challenges Tea Party candidates should consider
Excerpt: Republicans and conservatives have expressed confidence that they’ll be able to capture the U.S. House from Democrats in November. Democrats, as you would expect, are not buying that logic. A memo currently circulating on Capitol Hill obtained by liberal Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent lists several reasons why they think this: There are not enough open Democratic seats that can actually be captured by Republicans: “If Republicans have a great election night, they would still only win 50 percent of the Democratic open seats.” Democrats are poised to win at least a few GOP seats which means that Republicans will need to win at least 43 seats, a difficult task since Democrats enjoy significant fund-raising advantages in the at-risk seats The third point concerns the Tea Party. Instead of insisting that the public perceives the center-right movement as a group of extremists (something only liberal Democrats believe), the memo focuses on the policies which are being advocated by Tea Party-aligned Republican candidates which are definitely not as popular nationally–abolishing various federal departments, repealing the Seventeenth Amendment allowing for the direct election of senators, etc.–and argues that these policies will be a drag on candidates that insist upon talking about them. Of these talking points, I would say the last is the most significant. The second point about campaign warchest sizes, as pointed out numerous times by free speech advocates like the Center for Competitive Politics, is not nearly as significant as candidate quality and issue climate. Just ask former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine or former South Dakota senator Tom Daschle.
Nancy Pelosi spoke to liberal bloggers at the Netroots Convention in Las Vegas Saturday. She can't get away from work. When she walked through the casino, all the losers demanded a bailout while all the winners hid their cash in their underwear. ~Argus Hamilton

50 Most Beautiful People 2010
Once again, I was cheated out of my rightful place on the list by blatant discrimination.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Political Digest July 29, 2010

I post articles because I think they are of interest. Doing so doesn’t mean that I necessarily agree (or disagree) with every—or any—opinion in the posted article.

Judge blocks parts of Arizona immigration law
The Democrats, having made our inner cities into a third world country, won’t be content until the entire country has the living standard and crime rate of Mexico. Excerpt: A federal judge on Wednesday blocked the most controversial parts of Arizona's immigration law from taking effect, delivering a last-minute victory to opponents of the crackdown. The overall law will still take effect Thursday, but without the provisions that angered opponents - including sections that required officers to check a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws. The judge also put on hold parts of the law that required immigrants to carry their papers at all times, and made it illegal for undocumented workers to solicit employment in public places. U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton ruled that the controversial sections should be put on hold until the courts resolve the issues. The ruling came just as police were making last-minute preparations to begin enforcement of the law at 12:01 a.m. Thursday and protesters were planning a large demonstrations to speak out against the measure. At least one group planned to block access to federal offices, daring officers to ask them their immigration status.

Anti-Illegal Immigration Group Calls for 'Safe Passage' of Illegals Out of U.S.
Excerpt: An anti-illegal immigration group is calling on the Obama administration to ensure a smooth exit for illegal immigrants who are trying to leave the U.S. due to the weak economy and Arizona's strict new immigration law. Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC) is urging U.S. citizens to pressure the White House and the Homeland Security Department to establish "safe departure" border checkpoints along the U.S. border for illegal immigrants so they can leave without fear of being detained or prosecuted for immigration crimes. "The peaceful and gradual exodus of illegals from Arizona shows there is no need for comprehensive immigration reform amnesty," William Gheen, president of the group, said in a written statement. "Comprehensive immigration enforcement works and has the desired effect without mass deportations." Gheen said the safe passage would ensure that illegals "leave in an orderly fashion, instead of trying risky desert crossings, paying money to the cartels for passage south, or fleeing to other states." (This makes sense. I could support this. Of course, it won't happen for that very reason. Ron P.)

How Smart Are We? By Thomas Sowell
Excerpt: Many of the wonderful-sounding ideas that have been tried as government policies have failed disastrously. Because so few people bother to study history, often the same ideas and policies have been tried again, either in another country or in the same country at a later time-- and with the same disastrous results. One of the ideas that has proved to be almost impervious to evidence is the idea that wise and far-sighted people need to take control and plan economic and social policies so that there will be a rational and just order, rather than chaos resulting from things being allowed to take their own course. It sounds so logical and plausible that demanding hard evidence would seem almost like nit-picking. In one form or another, this idea goes back at least as far as the French Revolution in the 18th century. As J.A. Schumpeter later wrote of that era, "general well-being ought to have been the consequence," but "instead we find misery, shame and, at the end of it all, a stream of blood." The same could be said of the Bolshevik Revolution and other revolutions of the 20th century. The idea that the wise and knowledgeable few need to take control of the less wise and less knowledgeable many has taken milder forms-- and repeatedly with bad results as well. One of the most easily documented examples has been economic central planning, which was tried in countries around the world at various times during the 20th century, among people of differing races and cultures, and under government ranging from democracies to dictatorships. The people who ran central planning agencies usually had more advanced education than the population at large, and probably higher IQs as well. The central planners also had far more statistics and other facts at their disposal than the average person had. Moreover, there were usually specialized experts such as economists and statisticians on the staffs of the central planners, and outside consultants were available when needed. Finally, the central planners had the power of government behind them, to enforce the plans they created. It is hardly surprising that conservatives, such as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Britain and President Ronald Reagan in the United States, opposed this approach. What is remarkable is that, after a few decades of experience with central planning in some countries, or a few generations in others, even communists and socialists began to repudiate this approach.

The Flawed Assumption Behind Ending The Bush Tax Cut For The Rich
Contrary to what some readers of this blog or “I’m Tired” think, based on their posts, I am not in the $200k and over salary range (alas) though I think I am fairly compensated for my contributions. But unlike 95% of the voters, I have a basic understanding of economics, thus I am not easily manipulated by appeals to class envy. Excerpt: I’m reminded of all this by the current debate over whether the Bush tax-rate cuts should be renewed across the board or only for those with incomes below $200,000. We hear over and over that “the rich” have a lower marginal propensity to consume and, thus, smaller multipliers than the multipliers of real people, or no multiplier at all. This is supposed to justify raising taxes on the rich. Leaving aside whether $200,000 makes one rich and leaving aside the problems with applying the Keynesian multiplier concept economy-wide rather that to the individual, such a conclusion is, as they say, fatally flawed. It is flawed mainly because it confuses saving with hoarding and assumes that income not spent in the first round on consumption is not spent at all, even in subsequent rounds. I only hope my classes didn’t contribute to this confusion, which was the principle theme and flaw of the “under-consumption” theories held by Keynes’ intellectual predecessors. While lower income people probably do spend a larger percentage of their marginal income on consumption in the short run, the income of higher income people usually gets spent, either directly on physical investment or indirectly on investment after financial intermediation. Buying stocks or bonds or depositing income in a bank or other financial intermediary doesn’t mean money not spent. It just means money not spent in the first round on consumption. It is usually spent in later rounds on investment. If the marginal propensity to consume were 100 percent, there would be no investment, and, soon, no income.

Vote ‘yes’ on Proposition C
Excerpt: On Aug. 3, all eyes in the nation will turn toward Missouri, as voters in the Show-Me State become the first anywhere to cast a ballot concerning the federal health care plan foisted upon them. A “yes” vote on Proposition C — the Health Care Freedom Act — will tell the nation that Missourians have looked at this expensive, ill-conceived and unhealthy measure and reject it. Indeed, there is more at stake than health care. The ballot initiative also represents a referendum on state sovereignty. Quite simply, United for Missouri believes that the federal health care package pushed by the president and supported by the Democratic Congress treads on states’ rights. It’s a mandate on individuals and states that goes beyond proscribed federal powers. The federal health care legislation sets the nation back in three key ways. First, it mandates that every American buy health insurance, or face stiff tax penalties. Second, some employer-paid programs would be mandated, which will lead to job losses, wage cuts, loss of employer plans and accompanying choice of doctors or higher prices. All of which threaten the still struggling economy. Third, the government, rather than patients and their doctors would determine the level of care to be provided. The full scope of the health care legislation remains largely unknown. There is a reason leaders in Congress said, “We have to pass it to know what’s in it.” We already know it will cost more than we were told.

End biofuel subsidies
Excerpt: Congress finally is starting to recognize the high cost of filling up gas tanks with ethanol, the motor fuel made from corn. Billions of dollars in federal subsidies are on the chopping block. It's about time. With the national debt soaring, the government needs to wean the biofuel industry from its dependence on federal subsidies. Biofuels always have sounded better during the Iowa caucuses than they have performed in reality. Taxpayers have bankrolled biofuel research and a boom in ethanol production. Aggressive mandates have hiked the amounts of ethanol blended into the gasoline supply, and the industry is pushing for even-higher levels of the corn-based fuel in each gallon. At the same time, trade barriers have kept out cheaper ethanol produced from sugar in Brazil and other countries. Those heavy-handed government policies were intended to develop a big new domestic industry that would reduce American dependence on oil, improve the environment and bring jobs to rural communities. The goals are worthy, but for all the expensive coddling, American taxpayers have little to show for their money. Consider corn: When ethanol factories were popping up all over the heartland four or five years ago, livestock producers and food processors warned that using grain to make fuel would raise grocery prices. Not to worry, the biofuel industry responded, since corn would be phased out and inedible cellulose would be used instead. But the industry failed to deliver. "Cellulosic" ethanol, as it's called, looks like it may never roll out on a commercial scale, despite Uncle Sam bending over backward to make it happen. Last week, the Congressional Budget Office calculated how much taxpayers provide in biofuel subsidies to reduce gasoline consumption. The bottom line: $1.78 for every gallon when the biofuel is made from corn. Ethanol from cellulose costs a beyond-belief $3 a gallon in subsidies.

Establishment wins as primary and third-party challenges fizzle
Excerpt: Has the anti-establishment movement of 2010 already gone bust? Despite the voters' utter distaste for parties and the political establishment, there have been only a handful of serious primary challenges to sitting Members of Congress and even fewer viable third-party candidates have emerged in the run-up to the fall election. The reason? Money. If money is the leading indicator (and, sorry, it probably is) of viability, few incumbents have anything to be concerned about the rest of the primary season, and even fewer candidates should worry about a third-party candidate ruining their victory party.

I have a dream
A great update.

Fred Thompson: 'Catastrophic' If Bush Tax Cuts Not Renewed
When working people in the lowest bracket see their income tax rtes go up 50%, they might stop believing that BS from BO about Bush cutting taxes only for the rich. Of course, BO’s base is the 47% of folks who pay no taxes at all, including those who get money when they file though they didn’t pay, plus trail lawyers who can afford it with the rewards BO & the lawyer-congress have given them, plus government employees who get raises to offset the increases and want more taxes to support them. That’s a solid majority. Excerpt: Former GOP presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson warns that not extending the Bush tax cuts could have "devastating" and "catastrophic" consequences for the American economy. "We must urge Congress and the president to renew the Bush tax cuts early, before they expire and before investors lose confidence in the U.S. economy," Thompson stated in a letter he signed on behalf of the League of American Voters, a nonpartisan organization that advocates conservative principles. Beginning Tuesday, Thompson will be promoting the proposed tax-cut renewal in a national TV ad campaign and petition drive the league is funding. (This will be interesting. The Democrats have been enthusiastic about the end of the Bush tax cuts for months now, but a lot of knowledgeable people are trying to explain the really major downside of allowing them to expire. Either the tax cuts do expire, under the Dem-controlled Congress, or some Dems will have to cross the aisle, which would be an amazing rejection of what their leadership has been saying a thousand times. If they do expire, and there is a negative effect on the economy that becomes noticeable within a year or so, it'll be one more enormous discredit to this Administration, in plenty of time for the 2012 election. The only way the Dems come out OK is if they do let them expire, and everything is just fine afterwards. So far there seems to be plenty of reason to believe that is not likely at all. –Del)

Ex-spy master blames US for web leak
Excerpt: A former Pakistani spy master has hit back at allegations he supported the Taliban, saying the US orchestrated a mass leak of confidential files in a bid to scapegoat him for its failures in Afghanistan. The claim by Hamid Gul, a retired general, is unlikely to gain much traction in Washington, where the publication of 75,000 classified reports by WikiLeaks, a website, has renewed debate over its Afghan strategy. But Mr Gul’s allegations that a hidden US government hand played a role in the huge breach of classified files may resonate in Pakistan, where anti-American sentiment runs high and conspiracy theories feed mainstream discourse. “I am a very favourite whipping boy of America. They can’t imagine the Afghans can win wars on their own,” Mr Gul told the Financial Times. “It would be an abiding shame that a 74-year-old general living a retired life manipulating the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan results in the defeat of America,” he joked. “What are they going to do to the history books for their own posterity?”

Missouri Ahead of the Game in Dealing with Illegal Immigrants
Editor's Note: The following appeared in our May 13 issue and is written by State Representative Nita Jane Ayres: We’re down to one week to go in the legislative session and bills are moving through the process at a remarkable pace. My goal is to keep you updated on all the pieces of legislation that may be of interest to you and your family. In the coming weeks, I hope to do that. However, this week I want to talk about an issue that Missouri has already addressed in a variety of ways – the issue of illegal immigration. I’m sure you’ve seen the headlines about Arizona’s new law aimed at dealing with those who enter our country illegally. It has been called the strictest immigration law in generations. While Missouri hasn’t gone to the same lengths as Arizona, our state has made significant policy changes that effectively deal with illegal immigrants who enter our state. Because of those changes, Missouri is ahead of the game when compared to many other states that are now dealing with this issue. In 2007, the Missouri General Assembly approved HJR 7 to place on the ballot a proposed constitutional amendment designating English as the official language of Missouri. Voters then went to the polls and approved the measure with nearly 90 percent voting in favor. With that, English became the official language for all governmental proceedings in Missouri. It also means no individual has the right to demand government services in a language other than English. A common language is the cornerstone of a cohesive and united state and country. Ensuring that English is our official language is simply common sense. Another measure that directly addresses the issue of illegal immigration was passed in 2008. HB 1549 requires our Highway Patrol and other law enforcement officials to verify the immigration status of any person arrested, and inform federal authorities if the person is found to be here illegally. It also allows Missouri law enforcement officers to receive training to enforce federal immigration laws. Furthermore, the bill makes it clear that illegal immigrants will not have access to taxpayer benefits such as food stamps and health care through MO HealthNet. With the passage of this legislation, Missouri sent a clear message that illegal immigrants are not welcome in our state, and that they are certainly not welcome to receive public benefits at the cost of Missouri taxpayers. (How interesting. Missouri has been way ahead on all this, and in fact seems to have gone further than the AZ law. (Which the author of this article oddly says they have not.) And nobody noticed when all this happened in MO. Will Mr. Holder now have to sue MO as well as AZ? Actually, the way courts work, the existence of the MO laws sets a precedent for the AZ law, and so does what Rhode Island has been doing for a couple of years now. This will make it quite interesting to see how the DOJ will proceed against AZ. If their attack is not supported by the courts, it will be one hell of an embarrassment for the Administration. –Del)

Pelosi, Reid: Divorced From Reality
Excerpt: A major poll just gave Congress a favorability rating of 11% — lowest in history. Never, it seems, have our representatives in Washington been so disconnected from the people they purport to serve. The disconnect was most evident in separate comments made by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at a conference of the far-left group Netroots Nation last weekend in Las Vegas. Both weighed in on vital topics. Both revealed why they're so out of touch with reality. Pelosi told the audience she adamantly opposes raising the retirement age for Social Security and said the Depression-era program shouldn't be cut to help reduce the deficit. "When you talk about reducing the deficit and Social Security, you're talking about apples and oranges," she said. She has it exactly backward. The No. 1 problem facing this nation is the massive deficit we face over the next 75 years, due almost entirely to the expansion of Social Security and Medicare. The only way to address the deficit is to address entitlements. Social Security and Medicare trustees estimated last year that the unfunded liability — that is, future expected deficits — of the two programs is $107 trillion, or 7 1/2 times the size of our entire economy. If not addressed immediately, these shortfalls will require a tripling of payroll taxes to 37% by 2054 from 12.4% today. Governments as diverse as Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, France and Great Britain face similar scary arithmetic and are already lengthening the amount of time workers have to work to get a public pension. They're making other cuts as well.

Matthews: Will Democrats Run Away from President O-Carter...Er, Obama?
Very funny Freudian Slip by Chris “Tingleleg” Matthews.

Obamas take 4 vacations in 1 month
Speaking as a taxpayer, I’m in favor of more vacations for this President and willing to pay for them. It’s cheaper than having him in Washington.

Intel experts: Leaks might be lethal
The fact is, politics aside, loyal Americans will die because of this, and their families will grieve. It’s too bad the WikiLeaks founder and the editors who decided to publish them will not join them rotting in the grave. Excerpt: Lawmakers and former intelligence officials are concerned that WikiLeaks’ online posting of nearly 80,000 classified field reports from combat zones in Afghanistan could have serious ramifications — not just for the war but for intelligence-gathering worldwide and for the intelligence-sharing reforms adopted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “It’s hard for me to express how bad this is, and it doesn’t matter that no one has found a smoking gun in this immediately. ... We’re going to get people killed because of this,” said former CIA Director Michael Hayden. “The amount of damage will be incalculable in all the meanings of the word — beyond measure and hard to measure.” WikiLeaks’ founder, Julian Assange, said on MSNBC on Tuesday that about 15,000 reports were withheld because they could have revealed the identities of Afghans who have aided U.S. forces and exposed them to “the risk of retributive action” from warlords or the Taliban.

Schadenfreude Hour: Mississippi Democrats Implode
Excerpt: My friend Kingfish brings word of the implosion of the Mississippi Democratic Party. It is in full scale meltdown because the Chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party’s wife struck up an affair with an elected Democrat. Jamie Franks, the state chairman, is getting divorced from his wife. His wife has been having an affair with Mike Scott, the school superintendent in Lee County, MS and an elected Democratic. Franks used his influence as chairman to pressure Scott to resign and threatened to sue the school district. Scott pre-empted all that by filing suit first, admitting to the affair, and accusing Franks, the local Democratic Party, and the state party of interference with his job, defamation, extortion, etc. The whole of the state party is now in flames.

Rangel, ethics panel lawyers talking settlement
Excerpt: New York Democrat Charles Rangel made a last-minute effort Tuesday to settle his ethics case and prevent a House trial that could embarrass him and damage the Democratic Party. The talks between Rangel's lawyer and the House ethics committee's nonpartisan attorneys were confirmed by ethics Chairman Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif. Lofgren said she is not involved in the talks, and added that the committee's lawmakers have always accepted the professional staff's recommendations in previous plea bargains. Rangel, a 40-year House veteran who is 80 years old, would have to admit to multiple, substantial ethics violations for any plea bargain to be accepted. Earlier negotiations broke down when Rangel would only admit to some allegations — not enough to satisfy the committee lawyers, according to people familiar with those talks who were not authorized to be quoted by name. If the talks are not successful, trial proceedings for the Harlem congressman would begin Thursday with a reading of alleged ethics violations that are still confidential.

K Street goes to the defense of Charlie Rangel
Excerpt: Every person accused of a crime or an ethics violation deserves a competent defense. Charlie Rangel's legal defense, fittingly, comes from K Street. Two of the three firms providing legal counsel to Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., in his pending ethics cases are lobbying firms. In fact, one firm, Oldaker, Belair & Wittie, conducts much of Rangel's political fundraising, while operating four different lobby shops. But who's ultimately paying Rangel's legal bills? Mostly corporate and union political action committees along with individual lobbyists. Over the past six months, PACs and lobbyists have accounted for a majority of the money Rangel's campaign has raised this year, not counting transfers from Rangel's other fundraising operations (more on them below). In turn, Rangel funnels his campaign cash into his legal defense. In 2009, three-fourths of Rangel's $2.16 million in campaign spending went to legal fees. The House Ethics Committee allows campaign funds for legal fees that are not "primarily personal in nature, such as a matrimonial action, or could result in a direct personal benefit for the Member." Otherwise, legal fees are a legitimate use of campaign cash because "the protection of a Member's presumption of innocence in such actions is a valid political purpose," the guidelines state. That means any politically savvy donor who cut a check in 2010 to Rangel's reelection knew the donation was, in part, a contribution to Rangel's legal defense -- indeed, in the first two quarters of 2010, Rangel's campaign spent $655,232, with $230,749 (35 percent) going to legal fees. Zuckerman Spaeder LLP got biggest haul of Rangel cash -- $182,000. The firm had lobbying clients including one top drugmaker until last year, when the K Street legal shop de-registered as lobbyist.

Hall of Stolen valor
Links to recent slimeball wannabe stories.

Do you eat catfish?
Might want to watch this short video on catfish farming in the people’s paradise of Vietnam.

France Declares War on al-Qaida After Aid Worker Beheaded
Excerpt: France has declared war on al-Qaida, and matched its fighting words with a first attack on a base camp of the terror network's North African branch, after the terror network killed a French humanitarian worker it took hostage in April. The declaration and attack marked a shift in strategy for France, usually discrete about its behind-the-scenes battle against terrorism. "We are at war with al-Qaida," Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Tuesday, a day after President Nicolas Sarkozy announced the death of 78-year-old hostage Michel Germaneau. The humanitarian worker had been abducted April 20 or 22 in Niger by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, and was later taken to Mali, officials said.

John Kerry Vows to Pay Mass. Tariffs on Yacht Berthed at Rhode Island Tax Haven
Excerpt: Sen. John Kerry's decision to dock his family's new $7 million yacht in tax-free Newport, R.I., instead of in Massachusetts, is getting the onetime presidential candidate some unwanted attention from the Boston media. Kerry clearly isn't enjoying the public relations debacle -- and it's not clear what port 76-foot sloop, the Isabel, will eventually call home. Kerry, you will recall, is the liberal Massachusetts Democrat who ran against George W. Bush for president in 2004. His yacht is berthed at the Newport Shipyard, but if it were docked in Boston Harbor or at his family's summer home on Nantucket, he would have to pay $437,000 in a one-time sales tax and annual excise taxes of $70,000. "Let's get this straight," an impatient Kerry told WBZ TV in Boston on Monday. "I've said consistently we will pay our taxes, we have always paid our taxes. It's not an issue, period. . . . There's nothing more to say about it." Pressed by reporters at an event at the South Weymouth Naval Air Station, Kerry then said to his driver, "Can I get out of here, please?" according to WBZ. A Kerry spokeswoman, Brigid O'Rourke, insisted that the senator "will absolutely pay any and all taxes that he is found to owe." O'Rourke told the Boston Globe, "Whatever the Department of Revenue [a state tax agency] determines that he owes in Massachusetts taxes, he will pay."

The damage in the Gulf

Dengue fever outbreak in Florida brings spotlight to Port St. Lucie institute's work against the global scourge
If your kid dies of this, remember it’s worth it to liberals to save some birds by banning DDT. Excerpt: Among the shopping centers and plush housing developments in the Port St. Lucie neighborhood of Tradition, researchers are working to eradicate a worldwide scourge. Scientists at the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute-Florida in Port St. Lucie and a related institution in Oregon have been researching dengue fever for years. Now, as locally acquired cases of dengue are being reported in Florida for the first time in more than 75 years, VGTI's leaders say they have discovered promising leads they hope will eventually lead to drugs to prevent or treat the deadly mosquito-borne virus. Dr. John Schatzle, manager of scientific affairs for VGTI Florida, said the recent cases in Key West have brought local attention to what his institute has already been researching vigorously. "Think about it: People are going nuts over a few cases here in Florida, but 50 million people worldwide are getting this," Schatzle said. "It's one of those things that has such a global impact, even economically." (Another disease almost wiped out by DDT. Not specified, but clear from the text below, is that since there are no animal cases, this outbreak may have originated with a mosquito feeding on an infected human. Ron. P.)

EPA Puts ‘Environmental Justice’ Front and Center in Its Rulemaking Process
Notice the liberal elites always get to decide what “justice” is. Excerpt: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released a 55-page “guidance” to help its employees “advance environmental justice” for low-income and minority communities. “Achieving environmental justice is an Agency priority and should be factored into every decision,” the document says. The move comes 16 years after President William Clinton signed an executive order directing every federal agency to "make achieving environmental justice part of its mission." And Barack Obama campaigned on a promise to make "environmental justice policies a priority within the EPA." The EPA says its new guidelines will help its rule-writers identify potential environmental justice concerns, and it instructs them to analyze the impact of their rules on low-income and minority populations. The EPA defines environmental justice as the “fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, particularly minority, low-income, and indigenous populations, and tribes, in the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” (Be sure to enjoy your environmental justice; soon, we'll have health justice, too. Ron P.)

The Leaker's Accomplices?
Excerpt: Criminal investigators suspect that the young Army intelligence analyst accused of turning over a trove of classified material to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks had computer-savvy civilian accomplices in the U.S. and elsewhere who helped direct him to gather information, government officials say. Investigators from the Pentagon and the Justice Department are trying to retrace the travels of the suspected leaker, 22-year-old Bradley Manning of Potomac, Maryland, during a visit home to the U.S. last winter in which he appears to have told friends that he was considering leaking the information. Manning was based at the time in Iraq. Officials tell The Daily Beast they suspect the possible civilian accomplices in the U.S. and elsewhere may have helped direct Manning to Julian Assange, the elusive Australian-born founder of WikiLeaks, who then organized an electronic pipeline that allowed Manning to transmit the information secretly.

Why Vietnam Truth Matters
Excerpt: "In my rush to finish my statement in five minutes, I may have left out the fact that Vietnam is one nation today.” So spoke Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee on July 16, regarding her 5 Minute Special Order on July 15, given on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. Jackson serves on the Committee on Foreign Affairs and had recently visited North Afghanistan (or was it West Afghanistan) to help her conclude that we must set a date certain for withdrawal of our troops from wherever the hell they are by next June or July. If two stupid statements make a smart statement, Rep Lee probably seems brilliant to her liberal cohorts and followers. “In my review of the play performed so brilliantly at Ford’s Theater last evening, I may have left out the fact that President Lincoln was shot.” Rep Lee further demonstrated her grasp of military strategy by going on to suggest that the methodology for leaving Afghanistan is to “demand that the central government of Afghanistan provide” a laundry list of essential services that governments are obviously supposed to provide—without which they are not really governments. She then perhaps in an epiphany of Congressional fact finding wisdom blurted out what should rightly become the Jackson Lee Strategy—declare victory! Wow. Not since reading North Vietnamese Genius General Giap’s strategy—“hit the enemy where he is weak or relatively weak or even where he is strong”—have I felt the military equivalent of ‘Eureka’ quite so strongly. Apparently, if I am following her military history lesson, America waited too long to declare Victory in Vietnam and therefore…..well, I kind of lost her train of thought at this point. But evidently she has discovered that we are at that magic ‘declare Victory and come home’ point in Afghanistan if only we demand that the Afghan government shape up and act like a stable and efficient government. In her July 16, statement she also chastised the U.S. government (one of those governments between 1963 and 1975 one would assume) for not (and I’m not making this up) working “with Vietnam toward being a democratic state.” The Congresswoman then closes the statement with a sentence neatly tying things up—“I believe my special order yesterday [the one with two current Vietnams] was very clear.” Had she said, “I was clearly drunk,” I would have respected her more. Okay, for the record one more time—There was South Vietnam (a struggling democracy) and North Vietnam (a brutal communist government). We were allies with the South as they fought off the North trying to take them over. We beat the North in 1973. They signed a Peace Treaty. America came home. The communists launched a new attack and the U.S. Democrat controlled Congress abrogated the treaty and our obligations. North Vietnam overran South Vietnam so it became ONE communist, brutally ruled country to the death and miserable detriment of hundreds of thousands of our former allies. Those of you who cannot see the folly and danger of using ignorance of the truth in Vietnam as a platform for our current and future foreign policy (and military strategy) are quite hopeless.